Author: Martin Enserink
A decade ago, it wasn't unusual to see a Vietnamese family of five cheerfully braving the frenzied traffic of Hanoi on a single motorcycle—with nobody wearing a helmet. No longer. A stringent law passed in 2007 has made helmets compulsory—and has proven that such laws, which require political will more than money, can have a huge impact on public health. Research suggests that the law's passage saved more than 1500 lives the first year and reduced serious head injuries by almost 2500.
Traffic injuries aren't the first thing most people think about upon hearing “global health,” but road accidents kill an estimated 1.24 million people worldwide annually, about the same number as tuberculosis and twice as many as malaria. That's why the World Health Organization (WHO) has made road safety a priority. In developing nations in particular, there are huge opportunities to drive down the death toll. Read more
Helmet Law Case Study in Millions Saved
The Disease Control Priorities Network and the Center for Global Development (CGD), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have embarked on a collaboration to produce an updated edition of Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health. The review committee – of which DCP3 series editor Rachel Nugent is a member – is in the process of refining the list of final case studies.
Researchers at CGD plan to include the Vietnam law in the next edition of Millions Saved. According to Science article author Martin Enserink, CGD "prefers to see a randomized study or at least a 'quasi-experimental' study design (see main story). That didn't happen in Vietnam. CGD decided to include the case anyway because it's difficult to see what else—besides the law—could have caused the drop." Millions Saved 3 is set for release in 2015.
Enserink, M. 2014. Hats off to Vietnam's helmet law. Science. 345: 1261. DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6202.1261